Graham Collier

Graham Collier’s four-decade-long career was marked by innovation at the forefront British jazz. He was the first British graduate of Berklee School of Jazz in Boston and the first composer of jazz to be awarded a commission by the Arts Council of Great Britain. He traveled the globe to compose, conduct, teach, and write journalism during this period. In 1937, he was born in Tynemouth (England). After leaving school, he joined the British Army and became a musician. He spent three years in Hong Kong. After graduating from high school, he was awarded a DownBeat magazine scholarship that allowed him to attend the Berklee School of Music. He studied with Herb Pomeroy and became its first British graduate in 1963. He returned to Britain and formed Graham Collier Music, the first of many groups dedicated to his original compositions. His bands were called a “nursery for British Jazz talent” by one critic. They have included almost every British jazz musician, including Harry Beckett and Chris Biscoe. He started a big band called the workshop in 1984 to help young English musicians. Later, it became Loose Tubes. Django Bates, Eddie Parker and Julian Arguelles were just a few of the many talents that this multifaceted orchestra produced. Collier’s international bands have featured the likes Ted Curson and Hugh Fraser, Ted Curson, Ted Curson, Karlheinz Miklin and Terje Rypdal. He has been commissioned to compose for large bands like the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra or the NDR Big Band, as well as for ensembles that range from saxophone quartets to symphony orchestras over a forty-year career. He has released 19 albums and CDs and was part of compilations such as Jazztronik, Babyshambles and Masanori Mrita. He recorded with The Collective, an Australian contemporary music group, and the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra. He also contributed to recordings that featured artists such as Ted Curson and Tom Robinson. Collier’s last group was The Jazz Ensemble, an ad-hoc big band – Collier felt that certain stars and didacts have lost the improvisational element. The Jazz Ensemble featured a variety of regular collaborators, as well as guests from Europe and America and rising stars of Europe’s jazz scene. The Jazz Ensemble released two critically acclaimed CDs: Charles River Fragments (recommended by many) and The Third Colour (recommended by many). The Jazz Ensemble is expected to reunite in 2012 to record The Blue Suite and Luminosity. These suites were inspired by the ideas behind Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue. His other roles included stage plays, musicals, documentary and fiction film as well as radio drama productions. He was a fan favorite of Josef Skvorecky’s novella The Bass Saxophone which won a Sony Radio Award and an adaptation of Malcolm Lowry’s novel Under the Volcano for the BBC. Six books were written by him on jazz history, compositional technique, education, and jazz history. In 1995, Interaction: Opening up the Jazz Ensemble was published to great acclaim in the jazz press. Northway Books 2009, the latest book by the jazz composer moving music off of the paper, was also highly praised. Click on the titles for more information. He created the six-year Jazz degree program at the Sibelius Institute, Helsinki, Finland, in the 1980s. In 1986, he founded the Royal Academy of Music’s Jazz course. He was the artistic director of the Royal Academy of Music until 1999, when he retired. The first graduates received their degrees in 1989. He was also a teacher, lecturer, and workshop leader in Europe, North America and Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as well as seminars and lectures throughout the world. More information is available at Concerts and Workshops. He was one of the international jazz educators that founded the International Association of Schools of Jazz in 1989. For nine years, he was Secretary to the IASJ’s Daily Board. In 1994, his Winston Churchill Fellowship report Jazz Education, America, launched Jazz Changes, an IASJ journal that he co-edited over seven years. In 1987, Queen Elizabeth II awarded him the Order of the British Empire. In 1999, he left his post as the Royal Academy’s jazz course artistic director to focus on composition. After eight years of living in Ronda in southern Spain’s Andalucia mountains, he and John Gill moved to Skopelos in 2008. He continued his composition, traveling from there to give concerts and workshops all over the world. His death on September 9, 2011, at the age of 59, was due to heart failure. You can read the obituaries and appreciations at his alternate website, from Website:

Leave a Comment